The timing of Stephen Altschuler’s most recent Mindful Hiker eNewsletter was perfect for me. Read on and you’ll see why…
In his May 2008 edition, Stephen writes on the topic of hiking as a type of meditation, a subject he expounds upon in fine detail in his book of the same name, The Mindful Hiker, one of the best spirituality books I have ever read.
Can hiking be a valid meditation practice? The other day while trekking on the Canyon Trail in Shiloh [Ranch] Regional [Park] in Windsor [Sonoma County, CA], I found my mind empty of all distracting thought, and realized this is the essence of meditation…And, like sitting meditation, it is a true commitment to maintain this rigorous daily schedule where the body wants to reject such a challenge, lobbying the mind to give it up and go have a latte in a comfortable café.
Stephen’s point appears right on target, especially having read a very informative Inquiring Mind article on a 2007 visit to practice centers by Sayadaw U Tejaniya, a Burmese monk whose transformative approach to Dharma practice includes recommending walking at a regular rather than slow pace on retreat:
[Sayadaw] does not teach slow walking [meditation] but relaxed and sustained awareness. With the right attitude and constant awareness, the nonreactive mind develops samadhi [higher levels of meditative concentration] without becoming tight or tired while walking at a normal pace…Sayadaw says, “Instead of slowing down to babysit the mind and help it see the body, we should be exercising the mind so we can keep up with everything.”
— From “Taking a Relaxed Approach with Sayadaw U Tejaniya,” by Mirka Knaster, Inquiring Mind, a semi-annual publication for the Vipassana community, Spring 2008, p.18.
And Stephen adds what was for me a very timely remark, kindly letting me know I am not alone in neglecting my meditation practice lately while gently directing himself (and also me) back:
Now, perhaps, I can drop my guilt over not sitting so much lately, and get back to sitting meditation with a renewed interest and passion. For it will not be guilt that will reunite me with the zafu, but the thirst for a quieter mind amidst all the cacophony.